The man had every reason to hate my guts and interpret my existence as a threat. But, since no one else had the class to introduce us … he did. He offered up his hand in friendship, and I, grasped and shook it with sincerity. That was the start of a sixteen year roller-coaster ride culminating in the termination of my career. I’d encountered far too many A-holes in the years leading up to my final hurrah, and the singular relief was Johnny.
I was going to write a short history to lead you into the story here but, as the title states, this one’s for Johnny, and he knows the history. The rest of you are welcome to tag along, but be warned, Johnny and I are (were, in my case) Scientists who work for (worked for, in my case) a massive international food company. Unless you farm your own vegetables and ranch or hunt your own proteins, you might wanna skip this one. Sometimes it’s better not to know.
Heay Johnny, do you remember the time we . . . Oh, that one might get me sued. Never mind. OH Yeah! How’s about those 7 tonnes of . . . Aww yeah, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement over that one didn’t I ? I guess I’m gonna have to tone this down a bit. OK, how’s about the time we were preparing some cost reduced reformulations for a pair of high ranking guys to compare? John had a problem with the Test sample he was prepping so I just poured my Reference into both bowls for them to compare for a difference. I assured John that it was their flagship brand so no matter how good a job we’d done matching the original, they’d disapprove the re-formulation. It’s not like we were fooling anybody who wasn’t fooling with us, so I saw it as fair play. Sure as sh!t, they found galaxies of differences between those 2 bowls poured from the same pot.
Now, you gotta know Johnny to appreciate the reaction he had to suppress, fiery Italian blood and all. John was an advocate for the little guy, a righter of wrongs, a regular Frank Castiglione. All he needed was a mask, a cape, a silver steed, and, maybe some riding lessons (if he can ride a horse, he never mentioned it). I could see him literally shaking in flabbergasted rage as the two executives went on about the wide differences between the samples. But when they told us we’d have to go back to the benchtop and try harder, I thought he was gonna go nuclear on us. ‘Course, at this point, I was biting my tongue trying not to laugh out loud at the two clowns. So, I attempted to diffuse the potential explosive situation known as “Johnny”. I picked–up a couple of samples and tasted them myself. I thought about it, and with a quick inhalation and with wide eyes, I proclaimed agreement. I said the reference sample was “higher in the lower aromatics …
That was all Johnny could take. He quietly left the room with his hand over his mouth and his eyes bugging out like a colonoscopy gone horribly wrong. **Note to non – technical readers : If a techie ever agrees with you and says “Yes, this one’s higher in the lower aromatics” or “Yes, this one’s lower in the higher aromatics”. You’re being made fun of, and the whole lab will be howling seconds after you leave. But heay, at least you’ll have made everyone’s day, you dim-twit !
At this point, Johnny’s starting to worry that I’m gonna tell all about the artichoke incident in Cleveland, or maybe what significance the song “Back in the Saddle Again” holds for him. Fear not old friend, I’ll take those to my grave (or until I publish my Professional Memoirs, whichever comes first).
However, I will mention that I never knew such things as “boxer-briefs” even existed. And I could probably have continued going through life never having known about their existence. ‘Course, now I have a mental image of Johnny prancing around a cheap hotel room with said boxer-briefs across his waist with one hand, and a bottle of Yukon Jack in the other. I had phoned the wife to tell her I was gonna sleep on the couch in Johnny’s room so we could get an earlier start at the Plant in the morning. I turned and saw that abomination of nature, asked “What the F**k is that ?” and described Johnny’s appearance to her. She bade me a good night’s sleep, knowing full well that wasn’t gonna happen.
And it didn’t.
Johnny worked at the Toronto labs. I was stationed in a lab that was part of a Plant east of the city. I basically handled the U.S. business (which was manufactured out of the same Plant) and so, had all kinds of access to information from my buddies south of the border. Johnny shared an office printer with the Canadian Chief Executive team in Toronto. Between my contacts and Johnny’s penchant for hanging around the printer “proof-reading” his printouts, we pretty much knew what business decisions would be made before the guys who made the decisions knew. Now, Johnny and I were in lower middle management. That’s where a guy would give half his courting tackle to have inside info prior to a meeting/announcement so he could it lord over everyone else. So, there’d be Johnny smugly sitting in the Toronto boardroom and I smugly sitting in mine, listening to all the others’ conjecture and wild guesses. We’d let ‘em babble away, then, just a minute before the conference call would come in, we’d spill it. Everyone would argue, disagree and condescend until the phone rang and the news was announced. Even if it was good news, the room always went silent. I could hear then thinking, “Damn ! The Techie was right!”.
Speaking of my friends south of the border, there was one in particular we named “Millerman”. He was quite a sport and we had lots of fun with him. In a previous posting entitled “Don’t Have Yourself an Itchy Little Christmas” I wrote of the Winter decorations we make for our front porch. Well, Johnny saw them once and thought they were lovely. He wanted to try making something similar himself. So, he goes Home, and drops his keys on the table. Still in his office clothes he goes out to the garage, gets a wheelbarrow, and dances off into the bush behind the house without his wife or children (or anyone else) knowing where he was going. There were trails back there apparently, but he didn’t know them well. I guess he had a good load of pine boughs and such when he realized he didn’t know which way was Home. Night was settling in, the temperature was falling, and a snow squall was ramping up. He suddenly realized the gravity of his situation. Inadequately attired for a night in sub-zero temperatures, a snow squall moving in, and no one knew where he was, including himself. Not a good place to be. Needless to say, he did find his way out. He told me the next day in a voice still a bit shaken from the experience.
I immediately got this mental image of a Toronto Star Headline “Well Dressed Man found Frozen to Wheelbarrow full of Yard Waste. Police are Baffled”. Of course, I expressed my relief that it worked out, and immediately sent an e-mail to “Millerman” who had recently taken over Johnny’s Division. I included a completed requisition form requesting a GPS unit for the Department. In the box under the phrase REASON FOR ACQUISITION REQUEST I typed, “Johnny got lost in his backyard and damn-near died of exposure last night”. In the box under the phrase EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES I typed “And he was sober too!”. There were quite a few other boxes I filled out, but I can’t remember what they were now. As for Millerman, he sent Johnny a rejection to the GPS request, but included a ball of twine and a box of breadcrumbs as I recall.
I’m in a bit of a spot here. I can’t tell you much of the really fun stunts we pulled, because Johnny’s still employed there and needs to be for a few years yet. Once he retires I won’t need to hold back and I just might finish those “Professional Memoirs” I mentioned earlier. Haven’t got much concerning Johnny and my last employer written yet. I’ve been kinda busy lately, writing stuff for some silly blog someone started. Damnit Ranger ! Was that your doing ?
Johnny (like myself) was a city boy, born and raised. Unlike Johnny, I chose to trade the city for small town life. Hence, the only way I knew fashions had changed was by watching what Johnny was wearing when we got together (including, unfortunately the emergence of boxer-briefs). The only other work-person I’ve written of, was my secretary in the posting “Ten Cent Tour”. In that one I wrote about walks we used to take to get away from the office and lab. Well, when Johnny was there, we’d go for a ten cent tour of sorts ourselves on the same No Exit road. Johnny would carry his stylish jacket over his arm and chose his path carefully on the dusty, dirty backroad so as to keep his shoes clean.
That was until we got to the end of the road where I mentioned a beaver pond Chris and I had found off to the west. I turned to look around, and upon turning back, Johnny was off across the field and into the bush. Shiney shoes and all. His jacket scraped on the shrubbery as he forced his way through it. He carefully chose his footsteps as we approached the pond as the ground was boggy and wet. Sinking up to one’s ankles in muck was a distinct possibility. Johnny didn’t care, he’d never seen a wild beaver and he was going to. We stood motionless for a minute until a tiny “V” formed near the middle of the pond. It continued along the shoreline until the tiny nose making it, passed out of sight behind some bushes.
That was what I admired about Johnny. He would carry himself with dignity and presentable composure, until there was something exciting and new to experience. Then he’d throw convention to the wind and forge ahead, revelling in the thrill of exploration. That’s what makes a great scientist.
This one’s for you Johnny. Thanks for the memories.